1 Sony loses chipping case

The IPKat's friend Simon Haslam (Abel & Imray) has sent him news of this development from Down Under. Sony has lost a legal battle in Australia over the modification of its PlayStation games console, where the High Court (that's Australia's highest court) has ruled that chipping the console so that it can play imported games does not infringe copyright. The ruling ends a four-year legal battle between Sony and a supplier of mod chips, which bypass regional controls on the machine.

Consoles like the Xbox and PlayStation 2 can be modified by chips that are soldered to a console's main circuit board to bypass copyright and regional controls. The chips allow people to play games purchased legitimately in other countries, as well as running backup copies or bootleg discs. In this action Sony sued retailer Eddy Stevens, who supplied and installed modification chips in PlayStation consoles so that gamers could play cheaper, imported games. Sony argued that the mod chips infringed Australian copyright law.

In the wake of conflicting judgments in the lower courts, the High Court has come down on the side of Stevens and held that, while the chips let gamers play copied or imported games, they do not enable the copying of games. A lawyer for Mr Stevens said the judgment would allow Australian consumers to buy lower price versions of games overseas and play them on their modified consoles. Sony Australia said it did not have any comment to make at this stage. The news item adds that, in some other countries, the selling of mod chips is banned. In the UK, both Microsoft and Sony have used the EU Copyright Directive to clamp down on mod chips.

The IPKat respects copyright but has a strong dislike of the market partitioning exercises that have fenced in European users of consoles and forced them to pay substantially more than their counterparts elsewhere for the right to play lawfully purchased games on lawfully purchased machines. For as long as regional controls are imposed, gamesters will continue to play games with Sony - and sometimes they will win.

Full text of High Court judgment here.
Contrary UK ruling in Sony v Ball here

2 Calling all sole IP practitioners

The IPKat's recent call for sole IP practitioners to get in touch was answered by a good dozen or so individuals who are happy to get together and share their experiences. Those who have made contact include patent agents/trade mark attorneys, solicitors and barristers.

A practising sole (left), not to be confused with a flounder (right)

What the IPKat hopes to do is to get everyone together for a drinks one late afternoon or early evening and, ideally, get someone to say a few words (it should be possible to get Continuing Professional Development points too). The date is likely to be early-to-mid January (to give everyone plenty of notice) and the venue will be in central London. If you've not yet told the IPKat of your interest in attending, please email him here and let him know.

3 Most entertaining reported case of the year ...

The IPKat has read some great cases in his time, but few have been as entertaining as Sehgal v Union of India, a case decided by the High Court of Delhi at New Delhi and reported in the November 2005 issue of Sweet & Maxwell's monthly Fleet Street Reports.

Sehgal, a distinguished Indian sculptor, was commissioned by the Indian government to create a monumental mural for display at the Vigyan Bhavan (a show-case conference centre). Although it was acclaimed as not merely a masterpiece but a national treasure, the mural was pulled down and consigned to a government store room where it was damaged and some bits of it (including the bit with Sehgal's name on it) disappeared completely. Sehgal sued for damage to his moral rights, in that the work had been mutilated. The Indian government said that, since it owned the mural, it could do what it wanted to it and, in any event, the action was time-barred since the mural was removed in 1979 but Sehgal didn't sue till 1992.

The IPKat won't spoil the outcome for his readers (except, at Merpel's instigation, to say that Sehgal won). If you enjoy wide statutory interpretation, unusual legal submissions and colourful judicial phraseology, then this is the case for you (never before has the IPKat seen moral rights as "The Cinderella of the family of intellectual property, long pushed into the chimney"). If the decision of Mr Justice Pradeep Nandrajog is right, then the IPKat's friend Pravin Anand (right, who acted for Sehgal) should be swiftly annointed the patron saint of moral rights.

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